An organized pantry is a real relief for the home cook. Knowing where your go-to items are, and having a system in place to re-stock the pantry when necessary helps in meal planning and grocery shopping. When you know where everything is, you’ll waste less and thus spend less. Plus, getting that panty in order is easier than you think!
First, start by emptying the entire contents of your pantry. It’s best to start with a clean slate. By taking everything out, you can assess your needs, clean shelves and floors, and organize items before putting them back in. Toss expired or stale food (there’s probingly more than you think) and combine duplicates (like two half empty bottles of vegetable oil).
Next, invest in quality storage solutions. It’s best to buy clear, BPA-free, air-tight, stackable containers. I used OXO Good Grips Canisters (available here). Measure the shelves of your pantry and write it down along with how many containers you’ll need for each category (how many canisters you’ll need for cereal, pasta, dry goods, etc.). Take your list to the store (along with a tape measure) and only buy the storage items you need. Look for additional items like lazy susans for sauces, tiered shelves for cans goods, and baskets for snacks. Don’t forget to think beyond the kitchen section of the store—file folder dividers are great for cake boxes or baking pans.
Transfer all food to chosen storage containers and label each using clear printable labels or a label maker. Cut cooking instructions and expiration dates off food boxes and tape them to the bottom of the canister lids.
Finally, put everything back in the pantry thoughtfully. Arrange items practically by putting food accessed more often on convenient shelves. Group items categorically (canned goods, spices, grains, oils), making it easy to locate specific items down the road.
To maintain an organized pantry, declutter on a weekly basis (perhaps during meal planning). Take some time once a month to re-group items logically that have wandered during every-day use. Once used it for some time, it’s ok to reprioritizes items of re-configure storage solutions as needed.
The most important thing to remember is to make it work for you! A clean organized pantry makes meal planning and cooking a lot easier and more fun.